Last August, Dar al Hijrah (DAH) moved the Social Services Department into the brick house on the masjid lot. This finally gave DAH Social Services the space to open a community thrift shop in August 2013. A washer-dryer unit was fitted in the new Social Services Building to wash gently used donations before they are ironed and hung up for resale. Everything from abayas, electronics, toys, household items, to light furniture is for sale. The thrift store serves donors, as well as those in need of low cost items.
Recycling goods by reusing them is another Islamic ethos that is upheld. “Instead of going to Goodwill, they can bring [donations] to us,” says Tahani Jabrin, the Director Social Services at Dar Al Hijrah and a familiar face at DAH; the center issues tax deductible receipts for donations. Recently, the thrift store hosted a successful coat drive.
While all quality donations are accepted, the shop will not accept out of season items, as it does not have the space to store them.
Families can stretch their household budgets while shopping at the thrift store. It is located on the lower level of what was known as the book shop. “People who refuse handouts appreciate being able to buy with pride,” confides Jabrin.
Since the store cannot hold large item donations, Social Services started a matching program where donors and their donations, such as heavy furniture, are matched with families in need of the items; in this way they helped 42 families in 2013. “You can see their eyes sparkling with happiness,” bubbled Jabrin.
The store is gaining traction, making up to $200 a day, depending on the traffic in the masjid. All proceeds support the department’s services for the needy. As more people discover the thrift shop, the team hopes the revenues will increase. “Spread the word” says Jabrin.
Dar al Hijrah is in partnership with the Fairfax County Social Services “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" (TANF) work program. TANF is a cash assistance program for families with dependent children. The goal of TANF work program is to end the dependence on public assistance by preparing the candidate for a job by helping with job readiness and skills training, vocational training and assisting them in finding and keeping a job. Through the program, DAH found four Muslim sisters who volunteer an average of 20-30 hours per week at the DAH Thrift Shop in order to gain experience.
Certificates of accomplishment will be given to those who volunteered at least 60 hours to the shop, beefing up resumes with retail experience. “The volunteers say they feel the barakah in our work. We have a good team at Dar al Hijrah,” says Jabrin.
“My vision is to hire battered and divorced women as part timers, to get trained and build their resume so they can [look for work],” plans Tahani. Her team at the social services has a very high case load and “noticed [most] wom[en] are single, widowed, or separated and struggling for a job.” Some are refugees from places like Syria and Afghanistan, who struggle from the day they land here.
Two blocks from the masjid is Patrick Henry Family Shelter, an apartment-style shelter for large families. Often, a majority of the nine families staying there at a time are Muslim. Seven Corners, where Dar al Hijrah is located is a diverse community with the highest rate of poverty in Fairfax County. Seven Corners has a ‘Falls Church’ mailing address, but is not within the independent City of Falls Church. Almost 35 percent of residents live below the poverty line. According to city-data.com, 48 percent of those families are women without a husband present.
The shelter has rules that everyone older than 16 in the family must apply for employment to so families move quickly from the shelter into stable housing. Jabrin is often at the shelter counseling the families to get back on their feet. DAH is collaborating with the shelter. Families want their high schoolers to concentrate on their studies, the women often don’t have the skills to work outside the home. In order to receive housing grants these families must find a job or enter training to learn a skill. “They do not realize that part-time jobs are a part of the process to self-sufficiency,” Jabrin points out.
She is realizing her dream of empowering women through a self-sufficiency program at DAH. “Our women are going through a difficult time; they come to pray, they read Quran here at the masjid, why not have them come and learn [skills],” says Jabrin.
Starting the first week in February 2014, ‘Sew Til You Know’ --100 hour sewing classes-- taught by ‘a well qualified instructor’ will enroll 12 students at a time. The sewing classes will serve as training required by the county and help generate income. Sewing machines, fabric and patterns will be provided.
A table set outside the masjid with the garments sown by the students will provide immediate income. While training, forty percent will go to the social services department and sixty percent of the income to the person.
Community members are often looking for affordable tailoring services. Sisters can work at home, avoiding childcare costs, while providing income for their families.
Jabin is looking for donations of sewing equipment, sewing machines and fabric. Successful graduates of the 10 week program can expect the sewing machines as gifts, along with help in how to start businesses.
With these two new services Dar al Hijrah added to its armoury of recognized services: the Food Bank, Emergency Rental Help, Medication Assistance, and Employee-Employer Connections.
Vouchers for the thrift shop are available at DAH Social Services. The shop is open every weekend from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Those interested in purchasing gift vouchers for families can contact firstname.lastname@example.org